Challenge your assumptions on cross-generational health care

Comparisons of Baby Boomers, Generation Xers, and millennials are impossible to escape. But data reveals that drawing lines and categorizing generations lead to stereotypes that paint inaccurate pictures.

While every individual within a generation has their own distinct preferences, research consistently shows that some clear generational trends exist. Now, what does that mean to those of us in health care?

It’s easy for each of us to identify most with our own generation. And objectivity in human beings doesn’t exist. We often stereotype each generation, but in many cases, those assumptions would be wrong.

We must let data tell the tale.

Here are three assumptions that if you make, you would be dead wrong.

Boomers don’t want all this fancy technology.

Wrong! 82 percent of adults aged 50+ who use the Internet research health and wellness information online (Pew Internet and American Life Project). In fact, they spend much more time searching for health information online than their counterparts in the 18-29 year age bracket, according to Accenture. Boomers caring for aging parents devote 150 minutes per person each month viewing 1,010 pages of content, which is 70 percent more than the average user (United Healthcare, National Alliance for Caregiving). Surveys also indicate that most Boomers want access to Electronic Health Records and to refill medications electronically. And, if you think this generation isn’t using search engines social media, you’re mistaken. AARP says the four most popular sites they visit are Google, YouTube, Facebook and Yahoo!

Gen Xers are brand loyalists.

This is the Pepsi Generation, the Nike Generation. They are wowed by flashy marketing and pithy taglines and are loyal once you win them. Wrong, at least when it comes to health care. GenXers are heavy users of “established” technology and frequently rely on ratings, reviews, and peer information when it comes to health care. Just as Gen Xers were the first generation to job-hop, they health care hop too. Surveys consistently show that they have short term relationship expectations when it comes to health care. They expect to change health care providers to best suit their needs. Generation X is the first generation to go from health care patients to health care consumers.

Youth are trusting.

Forget the image of carefree youth. Millennials are actually more skeptical and less trusting than Boomer or Xers. They tend to be noncommittal in relationships to political parties, religious affiliations, and large institutions (Pew Research). That suspicion extends to health care. They believe the system isn’t about health; it’s about sickness. They believe the systems is geared to profit from the elderly and sick and want a system that supports healthy lifestyles. Millennials also refuse to accept the “black box” that other generations do. They know how much their neighbors house costs, what the average salary is for a job, and what dealers invoice is for a car. They expect health care to be equally transparent. They want to know details of procedures, projected outcomes of treatment, and side effects of medications.

Serving a cross-generational patient population is challenging. Start first by tossing out your own assumptions and learning what matters most to each generation. Develop a communication plan that tailors to each generation and continue to refine your approach. Meet your audience on the channels they most use, work to build credibility on the issues they most care about and help them connect with patients most like them.

This is called serving our patients.


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